David Soto Writes

I think I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Tag: deployment (page 1 of 2)

Maria’s Mom Visits – Post 23

As soon as Maria got off of Skype with Tim, she quickly walked the living room where her mother was waiting, sat down next to her, curled into a ball, and cried.

Maria’s mother, Espi (short for Esperanza), had taken the first flight out of Los Angeles to Sacramento as soon as she heard the news. Espi was the one who signed Maria out of the hospital.

“What am I going to do, Mama.”

“You’re going to try again,”Espi hesitated. “and you’re going to be strong.”

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t? You have to; you’re the wife.”

“Yeah, the wife. I’m not the man. The man is the one who was supposed to be strong.”

“Who told you that? Mira, every strong, powerful, and successful man that you know of is that way because of his wife. When the president of the United States has a long and terrible and stressful day who’s shoulder, do you think he leans on? Do you think that these men don’t breakdown, don’t have moments of weakness. Of course they do. They are flawed and imperfect just like any other man. They just hide it from everyone. Everyone except the one person they can’t, their wife. The wife keeps them strong by being strong for them and by being silent.”

“What does silent have to do with it?”

“Listen, the only difference between a man in a position of power and his followers is that they don’t know of his weaknesses. But his wife does. She knows them all. Think of any politician, or celebrity, or athlete that was put to shame when people realized that flawed. People lost respect for them. They have to bow out of political races or lost millions of dollars worth of endorsements all because word got out. And who told their secret? Their wives.”

“But what about Bill Clinton? Hillary didn’t…”

“Yeah yeah. I know,” Espi interrupted. “It was that pinche gringa that ratted him out. Even the strongest woman can be outdone by a man’s own stupidity. But let me ask you something. You don’t think that it that was his first time do you? Or that she didn’t already know? That man was embarrassed in front of the entire world, but it wasn’t because of his wife. She kept silent.”

“All men have flaws and weaknesses,” Espi continued. “The powerful and most respected men have one person that they can trust to show these flaws and weaknesses, and that is their wife. These men would not reach the status that they had if their wives let it out that they cry at night or like to suck toes.”

“Mama!”

“Well…”

“I just find this all hard to believe right now.”

“Who is the most strongest hardest working man you know?”

“Daddy.”

“Was he a good father to you and husband to me.”

“Yes, of course.”

“When was the last time you saw your father take a drink.”

“Geez, I was young. Maybe like my eighth birthday party?”

“And his drunk ass fell out of the tree trying to hang your piñata.”

Maria giggled, “yeah.”

“He used to go out a few times a week and get drunk with his friends after work. It used to bother me, but I let him do it. He would come home drunk belligerent loud and try to have his way with me. Sometimes I let him and sometimes I fought him off. I tolerated this for many years. Until I found out.”

“Found out what?”

“I eventually cut him off completely. I couldn’t stand his drunk ass on top of me. So as a result, he started to go out and get what he needed elsewhere.”

“What?”

“He had a girlfriend. Some skinny bitch that worked at Clark’s where he would buy his beer.”

“How did you find out?”

“His said her name one night drunk and on the verge of passing out. A few days later I found a note with a lipstick kiss on it on the back of a Clark’s receipt. I could’ve cried. Probably did actually. I could’ve picked you up and went to my moms. I could’ve left him or even worse. But I didn’t. I was strong. He was my husband this was my family, and I wasn’t gonna let anything take that away from me. So every day before I picked you up from school, I went to Clark’s. And eventually, I saw a name tag that said, ’Stephanie.’ I asked her if she knew somebody named Hector Rodriguez. She was chewing gum and smiled when she heard the name. She told me, “Yeah that’s my boyfriend.’ That’s when I grabbed her by the hair and said, “That’s my fucking husband you bitch.” And slammed her head into the cash register.

“Oh my god, mama.”

“That’s why we never went back to that store,” Espi said with a smile on her face.

“That afternoon I had your Tia pick you up from school and take you home. I went to your dad’s work and met him at his car when he got off work. ’It all stops now,’ I said. ’The drinking and the fucking around with this bitch Stephanie stops now. If you love me, if you love your daughter, if you want to have a family, it’s all done.’ I was in tears. ’I’m going to pick up Maria. If I see you at the house when I get home, I’ll know you made your decision.’ He was home when we got there and he’s been sober ever since.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Maria said.

“Two things, Maria. If I hadn’t been strong and stood up for what I believed in, for my family it all would’ve been gone. Everything that you know of in the past 15 years or so of your life would’ve been different. Also, if I hadn’t kept silent everyone would’ve lost respect for your father including you.”

“I only tell you this now because I know you’re old enough not to judge your father for the mistakes he made as a young man. I was strong and silent. And, if you want to keep your husband and your eventual family, you will do the same.”

The First Load of Laundry – Post 22

Since they started living together, Tim and Maria both slept in the nude. Even in his dream state, Tim knew this. So it made sense that he removed his clothes before he got back in bed with Maria after sleepwalking.

Maria found the first pile of clothes in the laundry room not long after she noticed the door being open in the mornings. The clothes were still clean. Apparently only having been worn for just a little while. They still smelled like she pulled them out of the dryer on Sunday. Without even thinking about it, she neatly folded them back up and put them away.

She had to think for a while. She understood why Tim would get undressed to get in bed. But why did he get dressed in the first place? There were no clothes the first few nights he went out which meant he was out there naked. Maybe he didn’t mind being naked because he was in the backyard. If this was the case, then that meant that he got dressed to go beyond the confines of their property. He was going out into the city.

*

Eventually, one morning she couldn’t just fold the clothes up and put them away. They were filthy. They were dirty, grimy in some spots. When she put them up to her nose, they no longer had that fresh scent out of just coming out of the dryer. They smelled like Tim. He had been sweating in them.

Everything had been simple until now. Concealing Tim’s sleepwalking sessions didn’t require a lot of deception or even thought. She realized that if she was going to continue to protect him, to keep silent, things were going to get complicated. She was going to have to do somethings behind his back and keep more from him than expected. Was it worth it? Her husband had been through enough, she thought. He didn’t need to go through any more trauma.

She started the washing machine.

They Finally Skype – Post 21

When Tim read the words, “I am in the hospital. We lost a baby.” His heart sank. It took everything he had to keep his composure. The last thing he wanted to do was break down and cry right there in front of everybody in internet café.

“60 seconds number 18!” A voice yelled over the crowd. That was Tim. He was on the computer numbered 18. He waited in line and hour to get five minutes on the computer. Com had been down for five days. They usually are in the event of a casualty. This allows the government to notify the family before they hear the news through the grapevine. The fact that the attack, which yielded the casualty, took out the power plant meant that com was down for longer than usual. When it finally came back up, everyone wanted to get online to notify their family that they were OK. Thus the brass required a five minute limit on all computers at the internet café.

“I’m sorry.” was the next thing to pop up in Tim’s instant messenger window.

“Don’t be. You didn’t do anything wrong,” Tim typed. “Be sad but don’t be sorry. Call your mother. Fly her in for a few days. I’m about to get cut off. We’ll Skype later. I love you.”

“Times up number 18,” a voice yelled.

“I’m signing off right now. Give me a fucking second,” Tim responded to the voice.

It was after normal duty hours so he went to the only place he knew he could be alone, the shop. When he got to the door, he frantically unlocked the padlock as if he was trying to get into the bathroom and was about to piss his pants. As soon as he opened the door, he stepped in, and it slammed behind him. He leaned back against the door and slid down to the ground and started sobbing.

*

It cost him six 1-pint water bottles of his homemade wine to get access to an unauthorized computer in the COM tent. Being a civil engineer had its privileges in the desert but so did being in the Communications Squadron. Each of the tents where the COM squadron members quartered had a computer and unlimited internet access. While the six members that occupied this tent were out enjoying Tim’s hooch, he had complete privacy and over an hour’s worth of access to the internet. This was when he Skyped Maria.

After a long while of them crying and trying to assure each other that they would be OK, Tim finally got around to telling Maria what happened.

“The news was wrong. It wasn’t four. It was only two,” Tim said. “One of them was my troop, Senior Airman Ricketts.”

The mortar round blew Airman Ricketts to pieces, and the ensuing fire ensured that there was nothing to send home to his parents. Sergeant Martinez survived the blast but not fire. Diesel fuel surrounded the hardened shelter that was the operations plant and engulfed it in flames. Martinez opened the door but quickly closed it after the heat singed his mustache and eyebrows. The autopsy report read that Martinez died of smoke inhalation.

Breaking the rules was probably what saved Senior Airman Jones’s and Airman Ski’s life. They were sitting in the pickup with the windows up. The engine ran while the AC blew, keeping them cool and wasting taxpayer’s money. Protected by the concrete barriers they did not get much of the blast wave from the explosion or the shrapnel from the mortar. Thinking quickly, Jones threw the gearshift into drive and sped away. When he realized that the tires were on fire, he slammed on the brakes, threw it into park, and he and Ski jumped out and ran to safety.

“This whole thing sucks, Babe. I just want to come home,” Tim told Maria.

*

Though he did tell Maria the gruesome truth of what happened, he didn’t tell her how it made him feel. He still couldn’t believe he lost someone under his “command.” In the movies, it happens all the time. But even in the movies, it only happened officers or senior enlisted in the Marines and Army, not Air Force Staff Sergeants in charge of the heating and air shop. He was also disgusted and disappointed with himself. If he hadn’t of told them to “get lost” or had just gone with them, Ricketts would be alive. The worst part about it was every day they had to go to work where there were reminders of Ricketts everywhere. Also since every game of dominoes would have to be cutthroat now, they just stopped playing altogether.

Their Courtship Continues – Post 16

Because of Tim’s rank, he eventually got a room to himself. That’s when Maria started spending the night on a regular basis. Every morning she would get up a little earlier than usual and head back to her dorm room to get ready for work. It was just easier to do this since, even though Tim had his own room, he still had to share a bathroom with someone.

Within the next few months, Tim’s housing status changed again. He was allowed to move off-base and started receiving BAH. BAH stands for basic allowance for housing. Tim got a shitty little apartment outside of base in the town of Marysville. It was your typical crappy apartment complex. The units still smelt of the previous occupants, the walls were paper thin, and the assigned covered parking spaces were too small for anything other than a compact car. The steps to the upper floors were so worn that the once square corners of the wooden planks were now round and splintered.

Tim was hoping that these substandard conditions would warrant a lower rent than what the Air Force was paying him, but this was not the case. The property manager of this shithole dealt with the military so much that they knew what the BAH was and charged exactly that amount for rent.

Once he signed the lease, Tim headed off to the closest Goodwill to furnish his apartment. He picked up a bundle of utensils that were taped together with clear plastic packing tape marked $5.99, one pot, two drinking glasses, and two coffee mugs (Though he hadn’t figured how he was going to make coffee). He found a semi used mattress and flat screen TV on Craig’s List and put them both on the floor of the bedroom. Back on base, he loaded his pickup with his dorm room contents, made a stop at the Base Exchange for some bedding, and stopped the chow how for one last free meal.

Tim’s first night in his apartment was also Maria’s first night in his apartment. She became what was known as a ghost. A ghost was someone who kept their dorm room because they were not authorized to move off base yet but lived off base anyway. When it came to dorm room inspections, their bed always looked perfect, as if no one had slept in it, because no one had.

It was on that first night Maria realized that Timothy’s apartment was going to need a “woman’s touch.” Most of the people they associated with called him Rogers. Nobody she knew called him by his first name. To Maria, calling him Rogers just didn’t seem right but neither did Tim. For some reason, she started calling him Timothy when she learned of his full name, Timothy Adam Rogers but mostly she just called him babe.

Unlike Tim, Maria knew that one day she would live on her own and started preparing for it as a teenager. She knew that someday she would have her own kitchen. So, every time her mother upgraded any type of appliance or utensil, Maria saved the old version in boxes she kept in the garage of her childhood home. Her mother upgraded so often that it got to the point the Maria was replacing items she hadn’t even used. By the time Maria joined the Air Force she was already on her second coffee maker, toaster, wooden spoon set, and blender. 

“I’m going to have to go home and get some stuff before too long. We can’t live like this,” Maria told Tim.

“Like what?”

“Oh my God Timothy. I  just had to heat up tomato soup then dump it into bowls so that I can use the same pot to make grilled cheese sandwiches. That’s like what. I can’t have my kitchen like this.”

“Oh, it’s your kitchen, huh?”

“Am I your girl?”

“Hell yeah, you are?”

“Do I cook for you?”

“Hell yeah, you do.”

“Then yeah, it’s my kitchen,” she affirmed. “I’m gonna put in for a couple of days leave. That way I can go during the middle of the week while you’re at work and we don’t miss out on time any time together.”

“I’m not coming with you?”

“Hell no, you’re not coming with me. You think my parents know that I’m shacking up with some dude that I hooked up with at a party?”

“Wow!”

“Listen, it’s not that I don’t want to tell them, but they are very Catholic and very Mexican, you know? They probably still think I’m a virgin. Telling them that I have a boyfriend and that I’m living with him would just cause a bunch of drama I do not want to deal with right now. Not yet.”

“It’s because I’m white. Isn’t it.” Tim understood but couldn’t let her off the hook that easy.

“Ay Dios mío!” Maria said this more to mock her mother that to really say it, holding her hands up looking up at the ceiling. She then brought her hands to the sides of Tim’s head and gave him a kiss. She then picked up his bowl and plate, which were paper, and took them to the trash.

There may have been a little of gender roles because of Maria’s upbringing, but she honestly did love to do things for Tim. He never expected it of her but let her serve him as much as she wanted. He loved it and loved her for it. Being taken care of by woman was something he truly missed. Both because he did not get it from his mother and because he got it so much from grandma. Maria could see the appreciation on his face when she put a plate of food down in front of him. It made her warm inside.

Maria put in to take a Wednesday Thursday and Friday off but could not get it approved unless it was two weeks in advance so for now, they did what day could with what they had.

It was during these two weeks that Tim got the call.

I actually spent most of my morning getting another chapter ready but chose to publish this one instead. I felt like the other needed more work. It turned out this one needed a lot too. Still feels like it does but I hit the road so here it is.

The Beginning of Their Courtship – Post 15

Maria’s first night with Tim was a night of firsts. It was her first time at a Civil Engineers dorm party. The first time going home with a guy she just met. The first time she ever had sex on a top bunk while someone was asleep on the bottom. And the first time a man has ever given her an orgasm.

Tim was her third lover. Her Catholic upbringing had her put off sex as long as she could with her longtime high school boyfriend. By the time the senior prom came around, she felt obligated to give it up in the back of a rented limousine. Her boyfriend, however, had been having sex the whole time with a neighbor girl who went to the public school. Maria eventually found out through a friend who went to that same public school and broke if off with him. The experience crushed her.

She met her second lover in college. Well, a failed attempt at college. She dropped out of the nursing program when she realized that bodily fluids made her vomit. The good news was she didn’t want to be a nurse. The plan to go to nursing school was that of her mother. The bad news was her little bit of college qualified her for a job the Air Force was in dire need of, a Medical Technician. The irony is that she worked in the lab and was surrounded by bodily fluids. Luckily, seeing them in plastic cups and glass tubes was a little more tolerable than seeing them actually coming out of a human.

Her second lover was a nice. That’s all. Just nice. They in her Human Anatomy class and paired up as study partners. She liked him but was not enough to date him. She decided to sleep with him out of curiosity’s sake more than anything else. It was bland and uneventful.

Although limited, her experience with sex was discouraging. She decided she was done with it for a while. Maybe even until marriage.

That idea went straight out the window after a few beers and a couple of slow dances with Tim. She felt something just being next to him she hadn’t ever felt before, not just a physical attraction but a connection.

*

Tim was a passionate and affectionate lover. He cared when it came to pleasing a woman. His knowledge of a woman’s body came from reading his mother’s women’s magazines after school as a curious teenager. Being emotionally abused by his mother until she finally stopped talking to him altogether at the age of 17 gave him a subconscious desire seek the approval of the women in his life. All this put him at a significant advantage over other boys his age when it came to making love. As drunk as he was that night he carried Maria to his dorm room, he was still able to make her feel like she had never felt before.

Being in such a hurry and a little ashamed, Maria didn’t leave her number the morning she left his room. Tim took it as a hint that she didn’t want to see him again. He, of course, thought that she wasn’t pleased with his performance.

Tim tried his best to avoid Maria. This would have been a lot easier if they didn’t work in the same building. When Tim swung by the chow hall early on Mondy to pick up some breakfast, he was sure to grab a couple extra boiled eggs for lunch. He stayed in the basement of the hospital all day that day but knew there was a chance he would see her at dinner. Every meal provided at the dining facility was free and most times, not bad. All the Airmen that lived in the dorms ate at the dining facility. So, on Monday night, Tim and Maria ate their meal avoiding eye contact with each other.

They each pretended to be involved in the conversations happening at each of their individual tables, but this was all an act. The truth was, they were more interested in the person eating on the other side of the room. The act continued on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. On Friday, Tim didn’t eat at the dining facility. He and a few of his other Civil Engineers decided to hit the lake for the weekend.

*

Friday night on the lake was deemed by the boys as a “sausage party.” It was just them, not a female in sight. They cooked hot dogs over the campfire and got shit-faced drunk off cheap beer. The next morning they decided they “needed some chicks.” Since Stewart had a phobia of taking a shit in public places, the boys tasked him with getting more beer and inviting some girls to come out when he went back to the base to take his morning dump.

“Don’t bring back any of that cheap shit either,” someone shouted as he got into his $300 car. It had a huge hole in the radiator and would over heat if he drove it too long. Usually, it would last long enough for him to get to one location. He could then only drive it again after it had sat long enough to cool off.

Stewart was notoriously cheap and would often only buy the beer that offered a mail in rebate. Though he stole the envelopes from the government, he still lost a good portion of his rebate to the cost of the stamp. The only time Stewart didn’t pinch pennies was when he was gambling. “Bet you twenty bucks I bring some chicks back,” he said to no one in particular as he headed off to the base.

*

After a few hours, someone finally spoke up, “Where the fuck is Stewart? We’re almost out of beer.”

“Who’s knows,” Tim responded. Just then, an SUV and a pickup pulling a boat pulled into their camp sight.

“What the…”

Stewart was the first to get out. “Miss me, fuckers?” He proudly held up two 24 packs of Old Milwaukee’s Best. “Someone owes me twenty bucks!”

*

Stewart’s first stop was the liquor store on base. That’s where he ran into Jay. One of the only Engineers who went by his first name even though he was a Staff Sergeant. And the only one of all of them that had a boat. He was on his way to the lake and was swinging through the base to pick up his girlfriend who lived in the hospital dorm.

“Dude get her to bring her friends. The guys are already out there. I just came back to take a shit,” Stewart told Jay.

“I’ll do my best,” Jay said in his natural voice that everyone insisted sounded just like Matthew McConaughey.

Stewart made the mistake of making two stops, the liquor store and then the dorms. By the time he was done using the toilet, his car was still too hot to drive. He could see Jay’s truck at the hospital dorm. He grabbed his two suitcases of beer and walked over to catch a ride.

Stewart was lucky. Jay should have been long gone by now, but he had successfully gotten his girl to get a group of friends together to join them at the lake. He was waiting on them all the get ready and pack an overnight bag. There were so many of them they had to take two cars.

*

“Holy shit, Rogers. Is that your girl?”

As the girls piled out of the SUV, Tim looked up to see that one of them was Maria.

She was wearing Vans with no socks, jeans, a t-shirt that terminated right above the waistband of her jeans, and an old faded LA Dodgers baseball hat that held her hair up in the back. If it weren’t for the fluorescent pink strings of her bikini tied in a bow popping up from the top of her t-shirt, you would have never known she dressed for a day at the lake.

“Do you have one of those for me?” she asked referring to the beer in Tim’s hand.

“You can have this one. I just opened it.” He handed her the beer and just like that, the awkwardness and tension that had been there for a week was gone.

*

At the sight of Jay’s boat on the water approaching the campsite, someone said, “Who’s going boating?”

“You wanna go?” Tim asked Maria.

“Totally,” She said and scurried off to get her backpack.

The first thing she did was kick off her Vans. Tim tried not to stare, but there was no way he wasn’t going to watch. He took in every detail of her body as stripped down to her bikini. Maria pretended not to notice him watching her.  Her feet were small and cute with toes painted blue, of all colors. Next, were her jeans. The act of her taking them off was a turn on for Tim but what it revealed was even better. Her hips were wide. Her jeans had seemed to accentuate them. Tight little asses were nice, but there was something about a woman with “child bearing hips” that Tim found more appealing. Next was the baseball cap. As soon as it came off, her hair fell all the way down to the small of her back. He had never seen her hair down, not even the one time he saw her out of uniform. The t-shirt was next. Even though Tim was a fan of obnoxiously large breasts, he found her small perky boobs to be perfect.

Obviously, Tim had been naked with her exactly one week prior, but he was drunk, and it was in the dark. He didn’t really get to lay his eyes on her. He loved everything he saw.

Maria put her cap back on and pulled her hair once again through the hole in the back and slipped her Vans back on. She pulled an insulated cool cup for her beer out of her backpack and then stuffed it with her clothes. Instead of slinging the pack over her shoulder, she held it by the strap in one hand, palm up, looking for a place to put it. She was about to head back to the SUV when Tim spoke up. “Here! You can put it in here. This is my tent.”

*

The rest of the afternoon the two of them never separated from each other’s side. After a while, nothing was holding back their physical attraction to each other. Hands rested on thighs, quick smooches were given, footsie was played, and sunblock was applied. From the looks of it, most people would have guessed they had been a couple for a while, not someone who just screwed last week and hadn’t spoken to each other since.

Maria finished a beer she took it out of the cool cup and threw the floor of the boat with the rest of the dead soldiers. She refused an offer for another.

“You don’t want another beer,” Tim asked.

“No, I want to be sober,” she paused, “for tonight.”

Tim already knew that she was going to sleep with him that night, but he didn’t want her to know that he already knew, so he played it off a little bit. With a nonchalant “suit yourself,” Tim fished out a beer for himself from the cooler.

“Uhh, you’re going to want to be sober too. In fact, if it’s going to happen at all, you will be” The drunk sex they had a week prior was the best sex she had ever had but Maria was ready to see what they could do sober.

Without looking up at her, Tim closed the lid to the cooler and sat back down next to her empty-handed.

*

Being the only two out of the group who weren’t completely drunk the night before, Maria and Tim were the first to wake up that Sunday morning. There had been lots of lovemaking the night before. Some of it even ended with a round of applause. As the walls of Tim’s tent did not do much to block any sounds coming from it.

“Are you hungry?” Tim asked.

“Fucking starving!” Maria said. The boys had not really prepared to feed themselves much less and the entire group of girls that showed up later. Luckily, Jay had brought some extra food, but it still wasn’t enough. Most of the group went to bed drunk and hungry.

“Pancakes?” he asked.

“Pancakes!” she approved.

Tim broke down his tent, packed it up with the rest of his gear, and threw it in the bed of his pickup truck. He peeked his head into the large tent that belonged to one of the other guys, bodies where scatters all over the floor like a scene from a zombie movie. “Hey, one of you ride home with the girls in SUV.” The only response he got was a thumbs up. They’ll figure it out themselves, he thought.

Tim got to an intersection where he was going to make a right towards the base when got an idea. “I know this place in Lincoln that has some sick pancakes. Do you want to go? It’s a lot better than the chow hall, promise.”

“Yeah,” Maria said. “Let’s do it.”

For the first time since they officially met, it was just them. No booze, no dancing, no friends, no sex, just them. For the entire time, the drive to Lincoln, waiting to order, waiting for their food, during their meal and the drive back to base there was not one uncomfortable silence. They talked and laughed and started catching each other up on all the years of their lives each other had missed.

This is the longest chapter I have written so far, 2300 words. I love how I can take details from my life and then mix them with pure imagination to come up with the story I am telling you. I hope you are enjoying reading it as much as I am writing it.

The Attack – Post 13

The one thing you have to deal with on a deployment, no matter what branch of service you are in, is boredom. For soldiers, it’s the time in-between missions outside the wire. For HVAC technicians, it’s the time in between service calls.

When you are good at your job, do all your routine maintenance, and only have a total of 106 air conditioners on base, you don’t get many service calls. And when you do, with four very qualified technicians ready to pounce on it like over compensating bouncers in a bar fight, no air conditioner stays broken very long.

The members of the 447th Civil Engineering Squadron HVAC shop spent most of their day playing dominoes. The thing is they couldn’t do it in the shop unless they were on an official break, like lunch. For them to be able to play all day, they had to get creative.

The center of the front seat of their six pack pick up folded down when there was no need for the middle seat. After a trading frozen bottles of water (Ice was a hot commodity in the desert) for some wood and time in the Carpentry Shop, Tim and his Airmen fabricated a table top to fit perfectly over the folded down seat. A little bit of trim around the perimeter of the table top made it possible to mix the dominoes up and not lose any between and under the seats of the truck. After the completion of their table top, when it came for the crew to go “get lost,” they could park anywhere, set up their table, and bust out the “bones.”

The four of them spent many an hour out behind the fuel bladders of the Power Plant. The power plant was noisy and smelled of diesel fuel, so people tended to avoid it. Except for the Power Production Engineers, of course. There was always at least one person there to monitor everything.

On the day of the incident, there was no work to be done. But the boys needed to get out of the shop. Being seen in the shop meant you weren’t out working in the field. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any actual work to do in the field. It just mattered that you weren’t in the shop.

The morning of the attack, Tim was about to head out to the power plant with his troops when he got a phone call from his boss, Master Sergeant Mattingly. The Master Sergeant wanted to go over the evaluations Tim wrote on Jones and Ski. The Master Sergeant was a stickler for well-written paperwork.

“Do you want us to wait for you, Sergeant?” Ricketts asked.

“Nah. You guys go ahead and play cutthroat,” Tim said. “The Master Sergeant is pretty anal when it comes to these things. This will take all morning. Just come get me for chow.”

“Roger that, Sergeant,” Ricketts said as he and the rest of the troops headed out to the power plant.

*

Dominoes just works better with four people. There are two teams of two and everyone gets seven dominoes. This leaves no dominoes left over, and with that, it’s easier to count the dominoes, a strategy used by advanced players.  Cutthroat is an everyman for himself version and not as fun. That’s why when Airmen Jones, Ricketts, and Ski got to the power plant, Ricketts went looking for a fourth.

The 12-foot tall jersey barriers that protected the fuel bladders were also what concealed the crew when they were out playing dominoes. The 8-foot long concrete monstrosities surrounded the bladders, but they did not butt up against each other. There had to be enough room for an Airman to be able to connected hoses to the bladders from the refueling trucks.

After parking in their regular spot, Senior Airman Ricketts went out to see who was manning the controls in the power plant, their possible fourth. Taking a short cut, he slid sideways between two jersey barriers. Then, even though it was forbidden, he walked over the fuel bladders, like a little kid in a rented bouncy castle. Once he got across, he squeezed in between two more of the portable concrete walls and walked over to the power plant. He knocked on the door but walked in without waiting for a response.

Inside the plant Ricketts found Martinez sitting in a chair with his head nodding, fighting to stay awake. Martinez was a grey-haired, overweight Technical Sergeant from the Arizona Air National Guard. He was way older than most Tech Sergeants, something common among the Guard guys. He was in the army when he was younger and missed being in uniform. He joined the Air Guard after a couple of co-workers convinced him.

“We don’t do shit but play cards and drink coffee,” they said. That sounded good to Martinez. He enlisted at the age of 38 he and was probably one of the oldest Senior Airmen in the country. For the next several years he drank coffee and played cards one weekend a month, two weeks a year, then 9-11 happened. He was now on his second deployment. He would have gotten out after his first, spending time away from his beloved wife and three daughters was hard on him, but two words caused him to reenlist once again, “Retirement Check.”

“Hey, Sergeant! Just checking on you AC,” Ricketts lied. “How is it working?”

Ricketts knew as soon as he saw Martinez that they were going to have to play cutthroat. The crew had nothing in common with a middle-aged Guard guy from Tucson, AZ. Inviting him in the confines of their six pack to play dominoes was like inviting a priest to a party. Yeah, he’ll go and even drink, but you’d have to be on your best behavior while he’s there.

Mattingly ended up postponing the meeting with Tim by notifying him that he had, “more pressing shit to handle.” Having sent the boys off to get lost, Tim had some free time and decided to head to the morale tent. It was early back home, but there was still a chance Maria would be up. She had been waking up at odd times since she got pregnant.

During the day the morale tent was nearly empty. He didn’t even have to wait for a computer. He logged in right away and checked if she was online. She wasn’t on Facebook as far as he could tell, so he sent her a message.

“Babe, I got some free time. Are you up? I would love to see your face.”

Tim clicked away at random shit while he waited for a response.

“I’m up. Let me pee and then I’ll Skype you.”

“Yesss,” Tim said as he gave a fist pump. He clicked over to and updated his status to “about to get online with my baby!”

*

While Tim was Skyping with Maria and Ricketts was feeding a line of bullshit to Martinez, a piece of ice at the bottom of a mortar tube reached its breaking point. It had melted from a small block to a thin sheet, and the weight of the mortar round caused it to crack allowing the mortar to drop onto the firing pin, sending it off towards the direction of the base.

Mortars fired towards the base rarely did severe damage. Iraqi civilians, who were paid by insurgents, randomly set the stovepipes in place. They were aimed with no accuracy or care and set with the makeshift time day, ice. They sometimes flew over the base and sometimes hit just short of it. When they did make it into the base, they usually hit something noncritical like and empty hanger or a dirt field. One time some shrapnel ripped through a Cadillac shitter severing a water line, rendering the bathroom unusable for a few hours. That was the worst of it, though.

So when this mortar hit dead center of the jersey barriers that surrounded the fuel bladders, it was a one in a million shot. It was also a one in a million shot that Ricketts was on his way back to tell the boys that they had to play cutthroat. And, even though it was forbidden, Ricketts was happily bouncing on the fuel bladders like a little kid in a rented bouncy castle when the mortar hit.

We are now to the stuff I started working on when I decided to create this website. This material is now a couple months old instead of six months or more. I had a hell of a time getting this one ready. Let me know what you think or if my dimensions of those jersey barriers are off.

Tim Goes To The Doctor – Post 12

The next morning Maria told Tim what happened as she dabbed the corners of her eyes with the cuffs of her oversized sweatshirt preventing Tim from actually seeing any tears.

“Take me to the hospital!” Tim insisted, even though he had no recollection of what happened. “Right now!” Tim was very protective of his petite wife. He proved that in that night in Sacramento. He wouldn’t let anyone do physical harm to her, including himself. If this meant the lock him up in s straight jacket then so be it.

“Okay,” Maria said, no longer able to prevent the tears from rolling down her face.

*

They spent the entire day at the base hospital waiting room hoping for an opportunity to see a doctor. It was quite the sight there among the rows of interconnecting black vinyl and chrome metal chairs, similar to what you would find at an airport. There were two kinds of people one would typically find in a base hospital waiting room. There are the retirees who did their 20 years. Some more that 40 years ago. And there are the homely dependent wives who won the medical coverage lottery by landing themselves a just as homely Airman. They greedily wait with their sick, snotty nosed kids for medical attention as if it was actual food or money.

Tim and Maria both were relieved when they heard the name “SSgt Rogers” announced, anxious to get the hell out of that waiting room. They were both escorted to the Psychiatrist office by a female Airman who’s hair color made them question if it was “natural in appearance” as the regulation required.

The doctor asked a series of questions as he typed on the computer. The screen of the computer was positioned as such that they couldn’t tell if the doctor was taking notes or chatting with his mistress. When the doctor finished asking what seemed like a standard set of questions, he diagnosed Tim with a mild case of somnambulism also known as sleepwalking and wrote a prescription for Desyrel. The doctor eluded to a possibility of PTSD and suggested he see a psychologist and get involved in counseling, right away.

As they both walked out of the doctor’s office, the doctor waited a few seconds and then peeked his head out the door and shouted, “Mrs. Rogers, Did you fill out this form?”

“Yes,” Maria responded. “I did.”

“Could you come here for a second and help me with your handwriting please,” the doctor asked.

“Go ahead to the pharmacy, babe. I’ll be right there,” Maria told Tim.

When she got back to the doctor’s office, she found him sitting at his desk with her husband’s file closed. She was aware of his ruse. “Mrs. Rogers, I wanted to let you know two things without your husband around.” He was no longer the droid of a person who asked the questions without any emotion earlier. He showed genuine concern as he continued, “One, please let us know if these dreams continue or get worse. We will have to have him come in for sleep observation if it does. And two, this one is important. If there is any sign of violence, ANY sign, please report it to Security Forces.” Maria and Tim had agreed ahead of time to leave out the part about the wrist lock he had put her on her. They both knew it would lead to all kinds of trouble if they did.

“Base cops, why them?” she asked.

“To eliminate the threat,” He answered.

Maria knew what that meant and knew there was no way in hell she was going to call Security Forces on her husband. The thought of him sleeping in a tiny room with cameras on him and wires attached to his body came to mind. No way, she thought.

“Yes, sir!” she responded to the Lieutenant Colonel doctor, having forgotten that she was no longer obligated to address him as sir, and went off to meet here husband.

While last week’s post was practically a complete rewrite, this week’s required that I fill in the blanks. I ended up doubling the word count again. I don’t know if this will stand on its own as a chapter or be added to the end of the previous one.

The Nightmares Continue – Post 11

On their second night together after Tim’s homecoming from Iraq, Maria was awoken again by Tim’s frantic breathing. Not as scared as she was the previous night, she turned on her side to face him, propped herself up on her right elbow and placed her left hand on his chest, giving him a quick shake with hopes of waking him. Remembering how this had no impact the night before, she didn’t even bother to call his name. She realized that she couldn’t wake him and that she was just going to have to ride it out.

She watched her husband inhale and exhale short quick breaths like a woman in labor. The little bit of nighttime light that made its way into the bedroom through the window reflected off the beads of sweat forming on Tim’s forehead. When she looked closer, she could see a tear roll out of Tim’s eye and down his cheek.  Crying herself, she wiped his tear away and reached over to the side of his face she couldn’t see and wipe just in case there was one there too.  She laid there next to her husband with her hand on his chest, feeling it rise up and then down rapidly until Tim gave out one final big exaltation and his breathing returned to normal.

The next day Maria, very casually, brought the dream up to Tim, again he had no recollection.

The dreams continued every night. They progressively got a little worse or lasted a little longer. Maria rode out each event from beginning to end. Wiping both her husband’s and her own tears until Tim’s big exhalation, which seemed to be the signal that the event was over and he would return to regular sleep.

One night, Maria didn’t awake to Tim’s heavy breathing but to find him sitting up on the edge of the bed with his feet on the floor as if he was about to get up to do something. “Timothy, what’s wrong?” No answer. “Timothy?” Again, no answer. “Timothy, what are you doing?” Frustrated that her husband was ignoring her, she got out of bed and stood naked in front of him. Their heights were on such different ends of the spectrum that with Tim in the sitting position, she was looking at him eye to eye. She waved her hand in front of his open blue eyes. He did not acknowledge the moment. Could he be…? She put her right hand on his left shoulder and started to shake. Without hesitation, Tim reached across the front of his body with his right hand and grabbed Maria’s palm between his thumb and fingers. He applied force to the back of her hand with his thumb, causing it to bend at the wrist and then rotated her hand clockwise 180 degrees.

Maria immediately screamed in pain. The pressure on her wrist forced her to bend over at the waist to prevent her arm from breaking. “Timothy, you’re hurting me.” Tim didn’t respond. “Timothy, wake up!” As soon as she said this, she realized two things. One, he was asleep and two, she wasn’t going to be able to wake him.

Helpless, Maria wondered if she was gong to be able to ride this one out. Her very large and very strong husband was hurting her. She was, for the first time since they met, afraid of him. Regardless of all this, she blamed herself. She should have known he was sleeping. She shouldn’t have tried to wake him. Still bent over, crying in pain, not knowing what to do, she heard Tim give a big exhale and let her go. He laid back down in bed and didn’t move until the morning.

As soon as Tim let go of her hand, Maria fell to the ground holding her arm and sobbing. She was in the wrist lock for only a few seconds, but it felt like hours. She was amazed at how many things went through her mind in that short about of time. She spent the rest of that night on the couch, but she didn’t sleep.

Wow! I pretty much completely rewrote this chapter. I must have written it in March of this year when I was thinking this was going to be a short story. Also, I am a better writer now than I was a week ago let alone six months ago.

Please leave comments and feedback below. Thanks!

Tim In Iraq – Post 10

Tim showered every night before bed. The showers were too crowded in the morning. He had the privilege of using “Cadillac” showers, which were in a trailer, not the bare bones tent showers the men who deployed years before him had to use. These showers provided a bit more privacy and men could take care of their “built up frustrations” with a little less fear of getting caught. Tim would return to the showers again in the morning but only to brush his teeth and shave. This bought him plenty of time to get some breakfast before he walked to his shop.

Tim took pride in his uniform. Where most men were a little laid back about it because of where they were, Tim made sure to adhere to the standards. Having recently sewn on his Staff Sergeant stripe, he made sure those under him did too. He kept extra razors in his desk in case anyone forgot to shave and once sent one of his troops back to their tent because he had, in a hurry to not be late, forgotten his belt.

“C’mon Sergeant Rogers. I’ll keep my blouse on all day. No one will ever know.”

“I’ll know, Airman Jones,” Tim replied, “and more importantly, so will you. Go get it and double time your ass back here so we can get to work. Me and the boys will be playing dominoes till you get back.”

Not wanting to disappoint their Staff Sergeant, the other Airmen frantically grabbed chairs and the dominoes and prepared to play. “You heard the Staff Sergeant,” declared Airman Ricketts, who outranked Jones by age and experience but not by a number of stripes he wore on his sleeve. “We’ll be waiting on you,” he said as he flipped over the dominoes that weren’t already face down over.

Back in the States, Staff Sergeants were a dime a dozen but on a deployment, everyone usually ended up with the job of someone who held one or more ranks above them. This put Tim in charge of the heating and air shop. He had three troops under him. Senior Airman Ricketts, Tim’s second in command, Senior Airman Jones, and Airman Ski— whose name was a lot longer than “ski” but it ended with “ski” so that was good enough for everyone.

As the Shop Chief, Tim attended all the morning staff meetings. Being in charge gave Tim a great sense of pride but after he briefed his troops on the outcome of the meeting, which was usually nothing more than the duress word and sign/countersign, he usually hopped in the truck with them to go out into the field to do maintenance and repairs. Shop Chief or not, he felt most at home out in the field working on the equipment.

If he did ever have some pressing “Staff Sergeant shit” to do, he would send the troops out with the work orders and tell them, “Come get me for chow.” Regardless of his authority over them, he felt like these three Airmen were his brothers. The closest thing he had to family in the desert and he took every opportunity he could to bond with them.

Occasionally, Tim would invite his troops over to his tent to get shitfaced off his homemade grape wine. It took him a month of bringing a can or two a day of grape juice back to his tent from the chow hall to get enough to start a batch. It took another month for the brewer’s yeast to secretly do its job in Tim’s locker. To everyone’s disbelief, one 1-pint water bottle that was refilled with wine, once its original contents were drunk or even just poured out, was enough to get someone drunk. They had a hell of a little party that first night the wine was ready. Somewhere in the drunken haze of that first night, Tim mentioned that he was going to make the next batch out of apple juice. The next evening when Tim got in from work, there was a case of apple juice in his cot.

He did manage to brag to one of the Special Ops guys one night in the recreational area after having already downed one of his stout pints. As much as he hated to admit it, he admired those guys. He would have liked to think they were assholes but couldn’t ever really find a reason to think so. They were all kind of nice. And all badasses whose job required they carry a gun, not a wrench. Tim was chumming it up with a guy who introduced himself as Koa. Koa was a tall, lean island boy with dark skin and dark curly hair. As soon as Koa mentioned he would like to try Tim’s hooch, Tim hurried off to his tent to grab a bottle. When he brought back the bottle, Koa told Tim thanks and then kind of dismissed him. “Thanks for the hooch, man. Listen, I’ll talk to you later, alright?” Koa walked back to join the rest of the Special Ops guys who had formed a circle around a couple of the hottest female Airmen on the base. Koa had to put himself in the running of who was going to get fuck these girls that night. Assholes!

Being highly illegal, Tim kept his wine a secret. With the exception of the Special Ops guy, the only people that knew about it were his troops, the others who shared his tent, his boss Master Sergeant Mattingly, and the Major, Master Sergeant Mattingly’s boss.

 

I literally just wrote the last three paragraphs before posting this. I wrote this weeks ago but as my story develops, I realize that there are things that need to be said beforehand. The ideas are really flowing now. I am even having thoughts about the second book in this project. I feel I owe it all the the fact that I am reading, at least, a novel a week. Please let me know what think below.

Continue to next chapter.

The Dropped Call – Post 9

By the time Maria was three and a half months pregnant, Tim had already been in country 90 days. Life wasn’t so hard for Tim. Everyone loved the AC guys in the desert. Tim and Maria communicated regularly via Skype and Facebook. Tim would often turn the monitor and make sure no one was looking and would have his wife show him her bare belly. Every now and then, if he was lucky, Maria would flash her breast.

“Are you being safe?”

“Yes, babe. I’m being safe. It’s a little too safe actually.”

“Don’t say that,” she scolded him.

“Well, I got to say, it’a little boring. All I do is fix air conditioners, that and go to meetings. Nothing ever happens!”

He was lying, partially. He was telling the truth about being bored but, even inside the wire, there was a level of danger. Rockets and mortars were often randomly fired into the base. They were set off by a time delay. No one actually took aim. So, haphazardly, they landed where ever they landed rarely hitting anything of significance.

“Well keep it that way,” she said, “your ass ain’t getting out of helping me deliver this baby that easy.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the wor…” The call dropped.

After a few failed attempts at reconnecting, Maria decided either the base communications went down, or the generators were out. Both of which happened on somewhat of a regular occurrence. She would try again tomorrow.

The next morning Maria was stunned when the news anchor claimed that four Airmen were killed as a result of a mortar attack at Camp Sather yesterday. The very base Tim was stationed. She immediately got online to see if Tim was online or at least to see if he had been online at all since the day before. His last post on Facebook was a status update that he was, “about to get online with my baby!”  He hadn’t been online since their call dropped. Off course, she assumed the worst.

She was devastated. For the next several days, she barely ate and barely drank. She hit the refresh button on her computer over and over. All she ever saw was Tim’s last status update, “about to get online with my baby!” All of this was taking its toll on her body.

The guys in Tim’s unit back in the States were of no help either. None of them had any information. Everyone was waiting.

It was on the third day after she heard of the attack on the news that Maria noticed blood in her panties when she went to pee. Later, after a few hours of trying not to think about it, the pain hit her. Doubled over on the floor of her Beale Air Force Base, ranch style, three bedroom home she called 911.

*

When she came to, she recognized the smell, the terrible lighting, and the white walls, floors, and ceilings. She was in the hospital. “My phone,” she thought. It happened to be next to her on a little table next to a plastic pitcher of water. She immediately fumbled for it and checked Tim’s Facebook status, “about to get online with my baby!” She curled up and cried herself back to sleep.

She was woken up a couple of hours later with repeated notifications on her phone. They were Facebook messages.

“Babe!”

“Babe, I’m ok!”

“Babe, are you there?”

She reached over to turn the phone to silent but took a quick peek and saw her husband’s messages. Confused about how to feel, she flopped back in her bed relieved that her husband was not one of the four dead but then saddened by what she had to tell him. She messaged him back, “Timothy!”

“Babe, I’m ok. Can you Skype? I only have a few minutes.”

“Oh, Timothy…”

“Get on Skype, Babe. I’ll explain everything.”

“I can’t, Timothy. I’m not at home.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m in the hospital.”

“What?! What happened?”

“The baby, Timothy! Our baby…”

The more I read, the better writer I become. As I work on becoming a better writer, I can see where I can improve on what I have already written. I am a direct and to the point kind of a person. People like that in my non-fiction writing but I can see where it may make for a, kind of, blah novel.

As always, feel free to leave some feedback in the comments section below. Especially if it has something to do with losing a baby. I’ve have very little experience with this, so I could use some help here.

Continue to next chapter.

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